An East Coast native, Melynne Klaus, M.A./M.P.A. ’03, attended Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Art History. During her time there, Klaus interned in the development office at F&M. She enjoyed working in fundraising, and after graduating, continued to work in the office with corporate and foundation partners. Then, a summer opportunity in Indiana changed not only her location, but her life as well.
“I had the opportunity to attend a summer program called the Summer Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service for American Studies, directed by Dr. Leslie Lenkowsky,” Klaus said. “While attending, I became interested in graduate school. I knew I wanted a profession in the philanthropic sector, so I looked into various programs focused on it. I made the decision that IUPUI was the best for me because of its emphasis on the liberal arts and its diverse ways of approaching problems.
“I applied to the dual degree of a master’s of arts in philanthropic studies and a master’s of public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management. I was accepted, and then had the wonderful opportunity to accept a graduate assistantship with Dr. Lenkowsky.”
Before starting classes the next fall, she assisted Dr. Lenkowsky with the Summer Institute, helping manage student placements at nonprofits throughout Indianapolis. The role gave her the chance to learn about Indianapolis nonprofits and their various missions.
When classes started and Klaus had some flexibility in her schedule, she began volunteering with Christel House International, an organization started by Christel DeHaan that focuses on education for the most impoverished children in Indianapolis and around the world.
“I worked first as a volunteer, then as an unpaid intern, then as a paid intern for them,” Klaus said. “For my second year of school, they hired me as a graduate assistant and development associate.”
While Klaus could have worked in multiple organizations, she decided to stay with Christel House International throughout her time at the then-Center on Philanthropy: “It was a really good fit mission-wise for me, and gave me many great opportunities to learn and develop my skill set.”
As she began contemplating and preparing for graduation, Klaus searched for opportunities within Indianapolis. She applied for and accepted a position working with the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, a major fund that is part of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF).
“The role focused on fundraising and the campaign to increase the endowment of the Women’s Fund,” she said. “I was and still am particularly interested in family philanthropy and that dynamic of giving, especially how families use philanthropy both as a tool to make the world a better place and as a way to talk about values and generosity within the family.”
After several years at CICF, Klaus received a chance she could not pass up – the opportunity to work with the DeHaan family as the executive director of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.
Klaus has been with the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation ever since. She works intimately with the DeHaan family to pursue their goals for the foundation.
“They set the parameters of how to support the community and I work to help them achieve their goals,” she said. “A large part of my role is communicating the mission of the foundation and its focus on the arts and if that matches with various nonprofits’ missions.”
Through its grants, the foundation seeks to predominately provide unrestricted general operating support to professional arts organizations.
“We want to encourage and support good practice behind-the-scenes and in the public-facing programs,” Klaus explained.
Overall, Klaus and the foundation focus on being a good partner, seeking to ask good questions and understand the organization’s perspective, as well as their limitations and opportunities.
“We bring an important outside perspective, but you have to understand an organization’s perspective and what and where they need assistance as well,” she said.
To this day, Klaus still uses lessons learned in class in her work. She has learned that it’s important to take a deep and broad look at issues as well as understand the history along with current events to understand the state of the sector.
“Both the understanding of a deep, narrow topic and a holistic, broad, and global perspective is important,” she said. “I analyze those narrow and broad environments in my daily role at the foundation.”
Lessons from the school not only inform her thinking, but have encouraged Klaus to give back to the school.
“I think as an alumna, it’s a responsibility to help when I can and to have engagement with students that will help them in their career paths,” she said.
As part of that role, Klaus and the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation host and support a graduate internship every year. Klaus works to show the intern the full scope of the foundation’s activities.
“I try to include them as much as possible in all aspects of the foundation’s work. I also welcome their involvement in asking questions and sharing diverse viewpoints,” she said. “Overall, I want to understand the student’s goals for his or her position in order to match him or her with what he or she is most interested in.”
In addition to her role as a mentor to current students, Klaus also volunteered for years on the school’s alumni board and Board of Visitors, completing a term as the chair of the Board of Visitors as well during the hiring process of Eugene R. Tempel Dean Amir Pasic.
“To know and understand all that was happening and be impressed by the cumulative impact of all the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy does was a great opportunity,” she said. “To see, to hear, to understand, and to learn, especially of and from the students and their work, was a wonderful experience.”
And for current students, Klaus has advice that she’s taken to heart through her years of learning and experience: “Ask good questions. Find your passion. Work hard, and set high goals. Finding your passion and the problems you want to solve will sustain you through the non-glamorous times. Approaching each task with the knowledge that it’s important and contributes to the overall mission is important.
“Finally, get involved, stay involved, and help future students as they start their careers.”